Angola + 1 more

Zambia-Angola: Angolan army not invited

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JOHANNESBURG, 9 February (IRIN) - Zambia said this week it would not allow Angolan government forces to launch operations against UNITA rebels from its territory.
A senior government official told IRIN on Wednesday that this was the essence of a message carried to the Angolan capital, Luanda, at the weekend by Zambian Defence Minister Chitalu Sampa. Zambia, he said, did not want to get embroiled in the conflict, and did not want the kind of tensions seen in Namibia which in recent weeks invited Angolan forces to use its territory as a springboard against UNITA.

"We have remained neutral in the Angolan conflict, and we remain so," the official said.

Sampa visited Luanda to attend the 16th session of the Angola-Zambia Joint Permanent Defence and Security Commission, during which the two countries discussed a range of security issues.

In an interview with Reuters after the meeting, Sampa said an invitation to Angolan forces was not in Zambia's interests: "It is not in our favour because it means sharing the war from Angola into Zambia. And looking into our economic capacity, we don't think we would be able to overcome such a problem."

Since October, when Angolan forces launched an all-out drive against UNITA strongholds in the south and east of the country, 22,000 Angolans have fled across the border into Zambia, according to UNHCR figures. There have also been raids on Zambian border settlements which the Zambian government has refused to blame on either side.

In the only public statement on their meeting so far, Angolan Defence Minister Kundy Payhama was quoted by the official state news agency as saying, "the situation along the Angola-Zambia border is worrisome despite efforts made by the two countries to reverse the situation".

Payhama, it added, "said he was pleased with the treatment being given by the Zambian authorities to the thousands of Angolan refugees living in various camps in the neighbouring country."

Like South Africa, Zambian officials told IRIN they too believed negotiations between the warring parties offered the best hope of an end to Angola's 26-year civil war.

[ENDS]

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